Some Remarkable Women in Pennsylvania &
William Worthington Fowler in 1877
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all the tens of thousands of devoted women who have accompanied the grand
army of pioneers into the wilderness, not but one has been either a
soldier to fight, or a laborer to toil, or a ministering angel to soothe
the pains and relieve the sore wants of her companions. Not seldom has she
acted worthily in all these several capacities, fighting, toiling, and
ministering by turns. If a diary of the events of their pioneer-lives had
been kept by each of these brave and faithful women, what a record of toil
and warfare and suffering it would present. How many different types of
female character in different spheres of action it would show — the
self-sacrificing mother, the tender and devoted wife, the benevolent
matron, the heroine who blenched not in battle! Unnumbered thousands have
passed beautiful, strenuous and brave lives far from the scenes of
civilization, and gone down to their graves leaving only local, feeble
voices, if any, to celebrate their praises and to-day we know not the
place of their sepulcher. Others have had their memories embalmed by the
pens of faithful biographers, and a few also have left diaries containing
a record of the wonderful vicissitudes of their lives.
Woman's experience of life in the wilderness is never better told than in
her own words. More impressible than man, to passing events; more
susceptible to pain and pleasure; enjoying and sorrowing more keenly than
her sterner and rougher mate, she possesses often a peculiarly graphic
power in expressing her own thoughts and feelings, and also in delineating
the scenes through which she passes.
A woman's diary of frontier-life, therefore, possesses an intrinsic value
because it is a faithful story, and at the same time one of surpassing
interest, in consequence of her personal and active participation in the
toils, sufferings, and dangers incident to such a life.
Mrs. Williamson of Pennsylvania
Such a diary is that of Mrs. Williamson which, in the quaint style of the
olden time, relates her thrilling experience in the wilds of Pennsylvania.
We see her first as an affectionate, motherless girl accompanying her
father to the frontier, assisting him to prepare a home for his old age in
the depths of the forest and enduring with cheerful resolution the
manifold hardships and trials of pioneer life, and finally closing her
aged parent's eyes in death. Then we see her as a wife, the partner of her
husband's cares and labors, and as a mother, the faithful guardian of her
sons; and again as a widow, her husband having been torn from her arms and
butchered by a band of ruthless Indians. After her sons had grown to be
sturdy men and had left her to make homes for themselves, she shows
herself the strong and self-reliant matron of 50 still keeping her outpost
on the border, and cultivating her clearing by the assistance of two black
men. At last, after a life of toil and danger she is attacked by a band of
Indians, and defends her home so bravely that after making her their
captive they spared her life and in admiration of her courage, adopt her
into their tribe. She dissembles her reluctance, humors her Indian
captors and forces herself to accompany them on their bloody expeditions
wherein she saves many lives and mitigates the sufferings of her fellow
The narrative of her escape we give in her own quaint words:
"One night the Indians, very greatly fatigued with their day's excursion,
composed themselves to rest as usual. Observing them to be asleep, I tried
various ways to see whether it was a scheme to prove my intentions or not,
but, after making a noise, and walking about, sometimes touching them with
my feet, I found there was no fallacy. My heart then exulted with joy at
seeing a time come that I might, in all probability be delivered from my
captivity; but this joy was soon dampened by the dread of being discovered
by them, or taken by any straggling parties; to prevent which, I resolved,
if possible, to get one of their guns, and, if discovered, to die in my
defense, rather than be taken. For that purpose I made various efforts to
get one from under their heads (where they always secured them), but in
"Frustrated in this my first essay towards regaining my liberty, I dreaded
the thought of carrying my design into execution: yet, after a little
consideration, and trusting myself to the divine protection, I set
forward, naked and defenseless as I was; a rash and dangerous enterprise!
Such was my terror, however, that in going from them, I halted and paused
every four or five yards, looking fearfully toward the spot where I had
left them, lest they should awake and miss me; but when I was about two
hundred yards from them, I mended my pace, and made as much haste as I
could to the foot of the mountains; when on sudden I was struck with the
greatest terror and amaze, at hearing the wood-cry, as it is called, they
make when any accident happens them. However, fear hastened my steps, and
though they dispersed, not one happened to hit upon the track I had taken.
When I had run near five miles, I met with a hollow tree, in which I
concealed myself till the evening of the next day, when I renewed my
flight, and next night slept in a canebrake. The next morning I crossed a
brook, and got more leisurely along, ret iming thanks to Providence, in my
heart, for my happy escape, and praying for future protection. The third
day, in the morning, I perceived two Indians armed, at a short distance,
which I verily believed were in pursuit of me, by their alternately
climbing into the highest trees, no doubt to look over the country to
This retarded my flight for that day; but at night I resumed my travels,
frightened and trembling at every bush I passed, thinking each shrub that
I touched, a savage concealed to take me. It was moonlight nights till
near morning, which favored my escape. But how shall I describe the fear,
terror and shock that I felt on the fourth night, when, by the rustling I
made among the leaves, a party of Indians, that lay round a small fire,
nearly out, which I did not perceive, started from the ground, and seizing
their arms, ran from the fire among the woods. Whether to move forward, or
to rest where I was, I knew not, so distracted was my imagination. In this
melancholy state, revolving in my thoughts the now inevitable fate I
thought waited on me, to my great astonishment and joy, I was relieved by
a parcel of swine that made towards the place where I guessed the savages
to be; who, on seeing the hogs, conjectured that their alarm had been
occasioned by them, and directly returned to the fire, and lay down to
sleep as before. As soon as I perceived my enemies so disposed of, with
more cautious step and silent tread, I pursued my course, sweating (though
the air was very cold) with the fear I had just been relieved from.
Bruised, cut, mangled and terrified as I was, I still, through divine
assistance, was enabled to pursue my journey until break of day, when,
thinking myself far off from any of those miscreants I so much dreaded, I
lay down under a great log, and slept undisturbed until about noon, when,
getting up, I reached the summit of a great hill with some difficulty; and
looking out if I could spy any inhabitants of white people, to my
unutterable joy I saw some, which I guessed to be about ten miles
distance. This pleasure was in some measure abated, by my not being able
to get among them that night; therefore, when evening approached I again
re-commended myself to the Almighty, and composed my weary mangled limbs
to rest. In the morning I continued my journey towards the nearest cleared
lands I had seen the day before; and about four o'clock in the afternoon I
arrived at the house of John Bell."
Mrs. Daviess of Kentucky
Mrs. Daviess was another of these women who, like Mrs. Williamson, was a
born heroine, of whom there were many who acted a conspicuous part in the
territorial history of Kentucky. Large and splendidly formed, she
possessed the strength of a man with the gentle loveliness of the true
woman. In the hour of peril, and such hours were frequent with her, she
was firm, cool, and fertile of resource; her whole life, of which we give
only a few episodes, was one continuous succession of brave and noble
deeds. Both she and Mrs. Williamson appear to have been real instances of
the poet's ideal:
"A perfect woman nobly planned
To warn, to comfort, and command."
Her husband, Samuel Daviess, was an early settler at Gilmer's Lick, in
Lincoln County, Kentucky. In August, 1782, while a few rods from his
house, he was attacked early one morning by an Indian, and attempting to
get within doors he found that his house was already occupied by the other
Indians. He succeeded in making his escape to his brother's station, five
miles off, and giving the alarm was soon on his way back to his cabin in
company with five stout, well armed men.
the Indians, four in number, who had entered the house while the fifth was
in pursuit of Mr. Daviess, roused Mrs. Daviess and the children from their
beds and gave them to understand that they must go with them as prisoners.
Mrs. Daviess occupied as long a time as possible in dressing, hoping that
some relief would come. She also delayed the Indians nearly two hours by
showing them one article of clothing and then another, explaining their
uses and expatiating on their value.
While this was going on the Indian who had been in pursuit of her husband
returned with his hands stained with pokeberries, waving his tomahawk with
violent gestures as if to convey the belief that he had killed Mr.
Daviess. The keen-eyed wife soon discovered the deception, and was
satisfied that her husband had escaped uninjured.
After plundering the house, the Indians started to depart, taking Mrs.
Daviess and her seven children with them. as some of the children were too
young to travel as rapidly as the Indians wished, and discovering, as she
believed, their intention to kill them, she made the two oldest boys carry
the two youngest on their backs.
In order to leave not rail behind them, the Indians traveled with the
greatest caution, not permitting their captives to break a twig or weed as
they passed along, and to expedite Mrs. Daviess' movements one of them
reached down and cut off with his knife a few inches of her dress.
Mrs. Daviess was accustomed to handling a gun and was a good shot, like
many other women on the frontier. She contemplated as a last resort that,
if not rescued in the course of the day, when night came and the Indians
had fallen asleep, she would deliver herself and her children by killing
as many of the Indians as she could, believing that in a night attack the
rest would fly panic-stricken.
Mr. Daviess and his companions reaching the house and finding it empty,
succeeded in striking the trail of the Indians and hastened in pursuit.
They had gone but a few miles before they overtook them. Two Indian spies
in the rear first discovered the pursuers, and running on overtook the
others and knocked down and scalped the oldest boy, but did not kill him.
The pursuers fired at the Indians but missed. The latter became alarmed
and confused, and Mrs. Daviess taking advantage of this circumstance
jumped into a skink-hole with her infant in her arms. The Indians fled and
every child was saved.
Kentucky in its early days, like most new countries, was occasionally
troubled with men of abandoned character, who lived by stealing the
property of others, and after committing their depredations, retired to
their hiding places, thereby eluding the operation of the law. One of
these marauders, a man of desperate character, who had committed extensive
thefts from Mr. Daviess, as well as from his neighbors, was pursued by
Daviess and a party whose property he had taken, in order to bring him to
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